It is generally believed that the various MHC class II molecules are expressed coordinately in B cells. To investigate this aspect in more detail, interspecies somatic cell hybrids were constructed between Raji or RJ 2.2.5 (a class II-negative derivative of Raji) human B cells and M12.4.1 mouse B cells. In both types of hybrids, HLA-DR and -DP, but not -DQ, molecules were expressed at the cell surface. The specific lack of expression of DQ Ags correlated with undetectability of newly synthesized DQ alpha beta heterodimers, as assessed by biosynthetic labeling and immunoprecipitation with a variety of DQ-specific mAbs. Studies at the mRNA level showed that apparently normal DQ alpha and DQ beta transcripts were present in the hybrids at levels comparable, if not higher, with the levels of DR- and DP-specific transcripts. From these results, we conclude that lack of appreciable amount of DQ molecules in the hybrids is caused by a post-transcriptional block. To date, these findings represent a rather unique example of noncoordinate expression of MHC class II Ags caused by distinct post-transcriptional mechanisms. These data may be relevant to a more correct interpretation of the functional role of the various MHC class II molecules, particularly with regard to the well-known association of HLA-DQ with many autoimmune diseases. Possible mechanisms at the basis of the distinct control of expression within the MHC class II molecular pool are discussed.

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